The diesel emission scandal helped people realise why good urban air quality is important. All the discussion  about nitrogen oxides emission has had everyone investigating and learning anything they can about the said pollutant. Many understand the need to do something about the situation, but they do not know where to start or what to do exactly.

Exposure to polluted air is one of the major contributors of illnesses and the low mortality rate worldwide. In the United Kingdom, the number of annual deaths due to dirty air is somewhere between 28,000 and 36,000. This costs the government over £20 billion annually, and it is the reason why various law firms and environmental groups are doing everything they can in urging authorities to impose stricter air quality policies, particularly to manufacturers of vehicles involved in the emissions scandal.

While the government is responsible for ensuring the safety of their people and environment, any action or plan will not work well if the community is not involved. For example, while the World Health Organization (WHO) recently  came out with stricter air quality guidelines with  studies and research on emissions and air quality, car manufacturers owners have to join in the action, too. It’s not simple, but it can be done – especially if every citizen does their part well.

If you want to help but do not know what to do, a little background information on air pollution is a good way to start.  

The dangers of air pollution

When someone asks you what air pollution is about, the first thing that probably comes to your mind is dirty air. Air pollution is more than that, though. 

Gases, chemicals, and particles are the elements that make up air pollution. The gases may be invisible to the eyes, but their effects can be felt, and sometimes, seen. Air pollution does not only affect the environment, it also has negative effects on human health.

Carbon dioxide or CO2 is one of the gases in polluted air. If you are regularly exposed to high levels of CO2 emissions, your respiratory system can be affected and you’ll probably experience headaches and breathlessness. In some cases, CO2 exposure can even lead to delirium.

Other pollutant gases in the air are particulate matter (PM) and NO2 or nitrogen dioxide. Like carbon dioxide, NO2 can be devastating for your health and PM does not have any safe levels. Regardless of the frequency or amount of PM you are exposed to; it will have a negative effect on your health. 

The gases emitted by vehicles are nitrogen oxides and they contain nitrogen oxides (NOs), which have nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide. They help form smog, acid rain, and particulate matter. They are also responsible for forming ground-level ozone, the dangerous kind of ozone.

Exposure to NOx can cause several health issues, including lung damage, breathing problems, asthma or aggravated asthma, cardiovascular-related diseases, and even depression and anxiety. Severe cases of NOx exposure may lead to premature death, especially for those with existing respiratory or lung and cardiovascular conditions.

So, yes, you cannot exactly see air pollution, but you can feel its effects.

Air pollution sources

Around 80% of nitrogen dioxide air pollution is released by road transport – or cars. And this is precisely why the diesel emission scandal involving Volkswagen and other car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Renault is a major concern for environmentalists, authorities, and the government. The use of defeat devices to cheat emissions tests does not in any way help in the campaign to reduce vehicle emissions of NOx.

The defeat devices used in the Volkswagen, BMW, Renault, and Mercedes Benz emission scandal hid the true amount of NOx that these manufacturer’s diesel vehicles emitted. During lab tests, the devices suppress emissions, making the cars emit a volume of pollutants that is within the legal limit. However, once the cars operate in real-world driving conditions, the vehicles revert to their normal levels of emissions, which are beyond safe levels. As such, instead of reducing NOx emissions, these vehicles emit prodigious amounts of air pollutants. 

How you can help

There are many things that you can do, by yourself and on your own time, to help reduce toxic gas emissions. One of these is to ride a  bike or scooter, or by walking to school or the office. These are environmentally safe options that do not leave traces of NOx in the air.

You can also take public transport, such as the train or the bus. This will help reduce emissions because cars driven on the roads are lessened. It also prevents or minimises congestion, which is a good way of reducing CO2 emissions.

Another good idea is to practice car-sharing with your neighbours or work colleagues. 

Of course, you should also actively support and campaign for the government’s Clean Air Zones.

Finally, if your car is affected by the Volkswagen or Mercedes emissions scandal, help reduce the problem by filing voluntarily returning your vehicle to them for software upgrade (if they do not send you a notice of recall). You should also file an emissions compensation claim against your manufacturer.

Working with a team of emissions experts such as the ones at is the best way of changing your behaviour and helping reduce NOx air pollutants.